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“I’m in love with you,” Oikawa tells him three days after they graduate junior high, head in his lap and hands gently folded over his chest and completely and totally unconcerned that he’d just shattered Hajime’s world.

His initial reaction is that Oikawa is joking – he must be joking. This is Oikawa and he says shit like this all the time – except he doesn’t.

Because there's a difference between I like you and I love you.

And I’m in love with you sits somewhere higher than both.

Even Oikawa wouldn’t joke about that.

His fingers are in Oikawa’s hair, and his eyes are fixed on Oikawa’s relaxed face and he realizes he’s so not prepared for this. There is no way he could be prepared for this, obviously, but he’s cuddling with his best friend on the sofa and I’m in love with you is ringing in his ears.

He takes in a deep breath, slow and measured, fights down the tightness clinging at his ribcage, climbing higher to tug at his throat. He sorts through words and strings sentences together and manages to say – voice remarkably normal –

“No, you’re not.”

Oikawa doesn’t even open his eyes, just hums a little under his breath. “Yeah,” he say, “yeah, I am.”

Oikawa’s face is soft, eyes closed and his breath is coming out in an easy flow that Hajime can’t even begin to imagine mimicking right now.

“I’m in love with you,” Oikawa says again, just in case Hajime hadn’t heard the first time or something, and he’d always thought your heart was meant to beat out of your chest when this happened, but it feels like his stopped the moment Oikawa started talking. His fingers are frozen, tangled in locks of brown hair, and his mouth is going dry from the way it hangs open in the warm spring air.

Oikawa rolls over in his lap, arms folding up on Hajime’s knee and his chin coming to rest on his interlaced wrists. His eyes are open now, and if there was any last doubt that this was all an elaborate graduation prank it’s blown away by the way Oikawa’s looking at him.

(He’s shaking too; a slight up-and-down tremor that chases its way around his shoulders and down to shiver past his spine. Hajime doesn’t know why he didn’t see that earlier.)

“I…” Hajime closes his mouth, swallows, and whatever sentence he’d been trying to say falls between them to splinter messily.

Oikawa smiles at him, but its eight parts self-deprecation to two parts dry humor. “It’s okay,” he says. “I know.”

Hajime jams his eyes shut and hates himself. He fumbles blindly for a moment until his fingers hit Oikawa’s and he’s able to press their sweaty palms together. 

He squeezes so hard that he almost feels something break and Oikawa’s fingers tremble against his.

I’m sorry, he thinks.

“I’m sorry,” Oikawa says.

.

He doesn’t see Oikawa until they start high school.

He tries of course. He calls him once, and mails him twice, but Oikawa doesn’t respond to anything and Hajime doesn’t press him.

He figures he owes Oikawa this space and it’s –

It’s not awkward. Hajime won’t let it become awkward. But he’s also not an idiot and he knows that he needs to wait for Oikawa to take the first step here. When he’s ready to talk to him again, that’s when they’ll talk.

Hajime doesn’t have a right to push for anything sooner.

First day of the new semester he pulls back his curtains to see Oikawa waiting outside the front gate of his house.

“Iwa-chan,” he says cheerfully, waving at him like it’d been days instead of months. “You look as grumpy today as usual.”

They go to school together and Oikawa chatters at him cheerfully the whole way and Hajime can’t figure out if they’re okay or not.

So he pretends. He pretends they’re okay because he desperately wants them to be. Because it’s better than acting like they’re not okay. Because it’s been too long and he’s really missed this shitty asshole and he’s such a crap friend and he was half terrified to god that whatever distance Oikawa put between them was going to be permanent and he doesn’t know if he could have taken that.

“Iwa-chan, are you listening?” Oikawa scolds, and nobody but Hajime would ever be able to pick out the lines pulling at his face.

“Yeah,” Hajime says gruffly, and for good measure he turns around to stomp hard on Oikawa’s foot.

“Ow! What was that for! I didn’t even do anything!”

Hajime shrugs and strolls off ahead of him but when he looks back again the lines in Oikawa’s face have eased.

He’s not smiling, Hajime notices, but…

But he’s not frowning. And that’s a start.

.

They don’t bring it up again.

If there’s a need to speak of it, Hajime can’t find it. They act exactly as they always have. Oikawa is his overbearing best friend who never quite learns the meaning of personal space and spends too much time on volleyball to be entirely healthy and Hajime is the long-suffering parental figure in his life that sometimes whacks him around the head and pretends not to notice if occasionally Oikawa stares at him with eyes wide and unreadable.

They settle into routine.

They meet up in the morning for practice, separate for their classes and meet up again at lunch if Oikawa can manage to tear himself away from his groupies for long enough. After school they go to practice together and Hajime stays with him long after it finishes, spikes the balls he tosses and lets Oikawa plan out his plot for volleyball domination or whatever it is because they both know he’ll be making captain come third year.

They go home together. Occasionally Oikawa comes over and annoys the ever loving piss out of him.

Nothing changes.

Nothing changes, and Hajime can breathe.

.

Trouble hits tail end of second year and Hajime thinks he should have seen it coming because that’s his job.

Hajime knows what lines on Oikawa’s face mean he’s trying not to frown, knows when Oikawa’s lying to him and he’s not in bed, not really, and he’s probably still at school practicing his jump serve and Hajime spends the night staring at his stupid phone – ha ha you worry too much iwa-chan of course ive left the gym already – and wishing that he could get up and drag him bodily away in the cool three am air.

(sometimes he does, when he catches Oikawa in the lie, but sometimes Oikawa talks around him; doesn’t answer his texts asking where are you or wiggles a truth in there somewhere and Hajime doesn’t know until he sees him the next morning with bags under his eyes and a slight limp to his step.

He’d been limping an awful lot lately and he knows Oikawa thinks nobody notices but he has.

Hajime has.)

The closer they get to the end of the year though, the more Oikawa does it. Stupid shit. The over practicing, the not sleeping, the forgetting to even eat unless Hajime shoves something in his hands and refuses to let him near the court.

The other people in the club walk around them like they think one of them is going to snap at any moment but they can’t figure out who.

“You’re not my mom, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa huffs out every time Hajime wrestles him to the side of the gymnasium to sit and rest for a moment, but it’s the same thing he’s been telling him since they were ten so Hajime clenches his teeth, drowns it out and tries not to beat the ever loving shit out of him because that still probably wouldn’t keep him off the court.

He doesn’t know whether it’s the looming thought of becoming captain that has him throwing himself at the game like this, or if it’s the knowledge that next year Kageyama will be back in the playable circuit.

Oikawa had never really gotten over his thing with Kageyama. Oikawa called it dislike, but Hajime knew it was probably closer to fear.

Kageyama was a natural genius, and Oikawa had fought tooth and claw for every scrap of talent he could get.

“Am I free from time-out yet?” Oikawa whines, leaning back on his hands and swinging his feet so that he kicks Hajime in the legs over and over like the petulant child he is. Hajime doesn’t know how half the student body thinks he’s this smooth, suave Casanova or whatever the fuck it is, but then again, Hajime has seen Oikawa cry during cheesy rom-coms so he might be slightly biased. “Or do you want to keep me here until I’m old and ugly? Because you’ll be waiting a long while, Iwa-chan. And jealousy is very unbecoming.”

Hajime lets him back on the court only after he gives him six bruises to match the ones blooming on his own shins.

.

It’s nearly five in the morning when Hajime’s phone rings.

It takes him a minute to realize that’s what it is, partly because it’s five in the goddamn morning and partly because his phone isn’t actually much in the habit of ringing.

Its Oikawa’s name on his screen and even though he usually texts, hates to call him because Hajime can pick out the truths and lies in his voice a mile off… Hajime isn’t all that surprised.

He answers the phone without a word, and the only sound he hears for a heartbeat is pained breathing.

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says, and he sighs his name like it’s the only thing holding him up.

“Stay where you are,” Hajime commands without missing a single beat, swinging out of bed and zipping himself up into a jacket before the words are even fully out of his mouth. “Stay where you are. I’m coming to get you.”

.

Oikawa is sitting on the step of the school gymnasium when Hajime finally gets there a half hour later. He’s spinning a volleyball in his hands and leaning back against the doors like Hajime might just somehow miss the way half a crate of balls are spread over the parquet floor and the net has been torn down like somebody took it with them when they fell.

“You took your time,” Oikawa says with an exaggerated sigh, smiling up at him through the tired crinkles at his eyes. “I was just starting to think I should go home by myself.”

Hajime barely looks at him because Oikawa’s face isn’t what he’s interested in right now. He drops to a crouch in front of him and asks: “Which one?”

It’s silent. Oikawa stops turning the ball in his fingers and Hajime can hear the struggled labor of his breathing that he’s clearly been trying so hard to suppress, can hear the way Oikawa fights with himself, his stupid, ridiculous pride, in the long pause before he answers.

“Right,” he says eventually. “I was… I felt something go in it.”

Hajime reaches out with fingers that have gone a little stiff in the cold breeze and touches his knee. The breath Oikawa sucks in feels like it rips all the oxygen from the air.

It feels swollen beneath his fingertips already.

Hajime closes his eyes and wishes he had it in him to punch an injured person because he’s known this was coming for months. Had seen it in the way Oikawa would sometimes hobble his way off court after gruelling practices, the flicker of pain that would cross his face when he’d sit down too suddenly or too hard or when Hajime kicked him in the back without warning and he’d stumble forward before he was ready.

And Oikawa had probably known there was something wrong with it this whole time.

Hajime gets back to his feet again and when he looks Oikawa is so pale in the face he’s half afraid he might pass out. “Can you stand?” He asks gruffly, and Oikawa laughs at him.

“Don’t be overbearing Iwa-chan, of course –.”

Tooru,” Hajime says sharply and Oikawa squeezes his eyes shut and goes quiet mid-sentence.

“I haven’t been able to stand for an hour,” he admits softly and Hajime is getting that light-headed out of control feeling inside himself, like when he’d broken his arm when he was five, or when Oikawa had confessed to him and he hadn’t had any words to make it better.

“We’re going to the hospital,” Hajime says and he can see Oikawa opening his mouth to argue. “No, shut the fuck up. You don’t get a say in this.”

“It’s my knee,” Oikawa protests loudly.

“Yeah,” Hajime snaps, and all the anger comes pouring out of him at once. “It is your knee; and guess who’s the genius that fucked it up?”

Oikawa’s mouth snaps shut so fast that for a moment Hajime thinks he may have crossed a line.

“Look,” he says after a second of stillness between them, voice a little softer than before but not by much because he didn’t do this whole comforting thing – they didn’t do this whole comforting thing. “If you try and play with your knee like this, you’re just going to make it worse. Let’s go to hospital. We can figure out what to do next after that.”

Oikawa’s lip is going bloodless between his teeth and his knuckles are white where his hands are pressed against the blue-yellow of the volleyball.

Hajime has the crazy thought that he wants to hold them; unfurl the fingers one by one and smooth out the way that they shake. Oikawa was always like this when it got to things he couldn’t control; sullen, stubborn and absolutely terrified.

“Okay,” Oikawa says after a moment, and it’s like the word has been dragged out of him with everything he has. “Fine, we’ll go to the hospital, just…” The volleyball rolls off to the ground and Oikawa sets his hands down on the edge of the step to try and haul himself up.

Hajime steps forward before he can even try, holding his hands out to him so that Oikawa pauses, hesitates and looks at him for a moment.

“Don’t be a moron,” Hajime says. “You’re not standing up by yourself.”

And Oikawa takes his hands.

.

It’s nothing serious.

No. That’s a lie. It’s serious, but it’s not permanent. That’s what matters. That’s what Hajime tells Oikawa when he takes him home the next night with his knee swathed in bandages and a set of crutches tucked beneath his arms.

He doesn’t think Oikawa hears him though, not beyond the echo of the doctor that had told him that he’d be sitting out of volleyball for the foreseeable future.

“Hey,” he mutters once he’s got Oikawa maneuvered on the edge of his bed, but his face is down and all he can see is the tasseled mess of his hair. “Oi, Oikawa. Listen –.”

“I’m tired,” Oikawa says suddenly, cutting off whatever Hajime had been about to say and his voice sounds it too. Not the kind of tired that he sounds like after practice, or in the morning when he comes to the court after spending all night watching rival teams on his small television screen, but the kind of tired he sounds when they lose a match, when Shiratorizawa beats them to the ground; the kind of tired he sounds in locker rooms when he’s trying to bring the team up from defeat, the kind of tired he sounds when Hajime knows that it’s not so much that he wants to sleep as he no longer wants to be aware.

“Okay,” he says around the lump in his throat. “Yeah, okay, just let me…”

He pulls Oikawa’s crutches away and sets them to lean against his desk with a solid clunk. He hears rustling and when he turns back Oikawa is hidden beneath the covers, a hunch of a shape crowded against the wall in a way that can’t be good on his knee, but Hajime doesn’t say anything because Oikawa never listens when he’s like this anyway.

He leans over and runs his hands through the mop of hair that is just peeking out from the bundled covers and the moonlight coming in the room paints Oikawa’s hair into shades of grey.

“Call me if you need anything,” he says like Oikawa’s own parents aren’t right in the next room and perfectly capable of caring for their son because they’re not.

Hajime doesn’t think anybody but him knows how to handle Oikawa, knows his moods that are quicksilver and fragile – when to speak and when to stay quiet and listen.

Something inside him tightens and it kills him because right now Oikawa is all but a stranger huddled up in his bed and Hajime doesn’t have the slightest clue how to make it okay.

He turns to leave, bends down to pick up his bag that he’s been lugging about since he went to see Oikawa in hospital after school, but the minute he pulls himself upright a hand shoots out and grabs his wrist and Hajime is tumbling, falling backwards to land on the mattress with a thunk.

Oikawa is on him in a second, hands skating up Hajime’s stomach, pushing underneath his shirt to crawl up his abdominal muscles with needy, pushy fingers, his face buried in his shoulder so he can feel the harsh pants of breath sliding along slick skin.

“Oikawa,” Hajime gasps, hands shooting up to push at his shoulders. “Oikawa, what –.”

“I’m not going to do anything,” Oikawa says, and his hands slide around Hajime’s back to pull him close, flush right up against him so that Hajime can feel the thick padding on his knee. He doesn’t recognize his voice, the almost desperate hiss that comes out just below his ear. “I’m not going to do anything, I swear. Please, just let me… Please.

He’s never heard Oikawa beg like this before, and the fingers clutched into the flesh below his shoulder bones dig in so hard he can almost feel his skin splitting beneath the blunt nails. He’d gotten used to seeing Oikawa shake around him, but feeling it against every solid inch of his skin was something else.

“Alright,” Hajime breathes, and one of his hands comes up to cradle the back of Oikawa’s head, letting him push his face right up against his skin so that he couldn’t look at Oikawa’s face if he tried.

Oikawa sighs against his throat, and he holds him even tighter if it was at all possible.

They stay like that for the night; Oikawa holding onto him for dear life and Hajime carding his fingers through his hair, pretending he doesn’t feel the wetness against his skin.

.

The next few months are a mess of moody nights and long mornings.

Hajime goes with Oikawa to his physical therapy, makes him practice out his stretches when they get back no matter how sharp Oikawa’s tongue is or how many barely veiled insults he throws at him.

He spends the nights at Oikawa’s place when his parents are gone on business trips or date nights because Hajime doesn’t trust him alone; the stupid shit would probably dart out the front door and try to play volleyball against a wall or something and no matter how many times Oikawa tells him he’s more responsible than that, Hajime refuses to believe him.

He grew up with this asshole. He’s seen the way that even being in the same room as a volleyball tends to drive him to distraction.

There are a lot of bad days. When practice had gone exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly and Oikawa had gotten pale and fidgety at the side of the gym, or when he rushes his physio and can’t do the stretches right, knee stiff and unyielding until Hajime pushes him down and loosens it with easy fingers, or pain flares up beneath his skin in a way that he can’t hope to hide; the days Oikawa pushes for more than his body has to give and Hajime can’t stop him no matter how hard he tries.

The bad days have worse nights.

Oikawa sneaks into his futon – because of course Hajime wasn’t going to leave him alone on the days that hurt – and Hajime lets him; lets him crawl up close and curl up at his side, lets Oikawa slide his hands against his skin, draw him in, breath up against his neck so that Hajime can feel his lips whisper against his throat.

Sometimes he even puts his arms around Oikawa too, holds him close so that Oikawa knows he’s not going anywhere.

Those are usually the nights that Oikawa cries and Hajime stares at the ceiling and catches himself wishing that it’d just been his stupid knee instead.

Sometimes Hajime wonders if he’s encouraging him too much because he still remembers being fourteen and realizing Oikawa was in love with him, but he’s never been able to tell Oikawa no before and it’d be a lie to say that the feeling of Oikawa’s skin against his as they go to sleep doesn’t occasionally settle something inside him that had been loose and clanky since he found Oikawa on the gym steps white knuckled and in agony.

(privately Hajime sometimes wonders if Oikawa’s injury had scared him more than it had scared Oikawa, but he never says.)

He keeps them going though, as best as he can; pushes when Oikawa’s temper snaps and he locks himself in his room, pulls when he locks himself to the court instead.

And slowly – in weeks that stretch long enough to break and crumple into muddled months – they get there.

.

Third year comes and, even while relegated to the bench for the start of the semester, Oikawa still makes captain.

“Would you shut your face already,” he snaps as Oikawa rolls around on the couch, clutching a pillow close to his chest because ‘it’s better company than Iwa-chan. Hajime’s parents were out late and he was making dinner for the both of them because apparently Oikawa didn’t take up enough of his time as it was.

Hajime was basically a glorified, under-paid babysitter at this point. He’d stopped fighting that some time back.

Oikawa pouts at him over the back of the sofa and Hajime has a hard time believing that this is the same nationally recognized setter that half the prefecture seems to be in love with. “You’re so mean,” Oikawa sighs, a big blustering noise that makes Hajime bristle slightly as he ladles curry onto plates. “You’re meant to congratulate me. Shower me in praise.” 

Hajime crosses the room in a handful of easy strides and shoves Oikawa’s plate into his chest so hard that he falls back with a resounding and supremely undignified yelp.

“I made you fucking dinner,” Hajime grits out. “What more do you want from me? Roses?”

Oikawa scoffs at him, but it comes out slightly winded and loses at least half of its effect. “Iwa-chan’s a cheap date,” he huffs under his breath, as he picks at his curry slightly, stirring it around in a way that Hajime knows he has taught him was bad manners.

(the only reason the date comment slides is because Oikawa had never shied away from making jokes like that after the confession. It’s not like Hajime has asked or anything, but he thinks he gets it too.

The last thing he wants is for the little things that make up their friendship to fall apart under the pressure of avoiding it all.)

“If you don’t like it, don’t eat it and get out of my house,” Hajime says as he sits down beside him, but his words have no bite in them because it wasn’t really a surprise – Oikawa making captain and all – but that annoying part of him that never could quite manage to sever his friendship with this guy was proud nonetheless.

Not that he’d ever let Oikawa know that – as though there was a chance in hell he’d be able to keep anything a secret after this long. 

Beside him Oikawa was huddled up in a half crouch that had to be uncomfortable given the fact his knee was still in a supporter, pillow fluffed in his lap and curry plate balanced on top as he picked through it. Not for the first time Hajime finds himself… not jealous really, but appreciative maybe, of Oikawa’s flexibility; eyeing off the unnatural bend of his spine and the hike of his legs that would make him sore inside minutes but Oikawa seems to find comfortable somehow.

“You’re staring,” Oikawa says loftily as Hajime starts back to reality. “I know I’m pretty Iwa-chan, but you’re going to miss your mouth if you try and stare and eat at the same time.” He bats his eyelashes at him coyly and Hajime feels blood rush up to his face.

“You talk so much shit. Shut up and eat before I force it down your throat.” The threat sounds less than convincing though and Hajime turns back to his own plate before Oikawa delights in his red face.

It’s silent for a moment – no snarky remark, just the sound of cutlery clattering on the plates – and Hajime almost thinks that Oikawa might let him have a quiet mealtime for once in his life.

“Hey,” Oikawa says and Hajime grunts around a mouthful of beef. He expects Oikawa to cringe at him – god Iwa-chan, you’re such a Neanderthal at times – but nothing in his expression changes, except maybe the intensity with which he focuses on the food he’s not even eating.

Everything about him is so fucking casual except for the stiffness in his twitchy movements and the fixated eyes. Hajime knows him well enough by now to know that expression means they’re about to have one of their possibly life changing talks – I’m in love with you; I felt something go in it; I won’t do anything, I swear.

A chill chases its way up his spine before he can forcibly squish it back down. “Yeah?”

Oikawa’s mouth tightens a little at the corners. “Do you know what you’re doing after school?”

Hajime frowns, really, really confused – he would be going to volleyball after school like he usually did, what did Oikawa – and then it hits him in a big, crushing oh.

He deliberately focuses back on his food even though the rice feels sticky in his mouth. “I dunno,” he says with as much nonchalance as he can possibly work into his voice. “I haven’t thought about it yet.”

Oikawa gives up all pretenses – and Hajime doesn’t like the honesty in his expression as much as he thinks he should – and sets his dinner aside. He turns to look at him then, pillow still gathered up against his chest and eyes narrow in a way that tells Hajime that he’s not the only one in this friendship who can tell truths from lies.

There’s a beat where Hajime wants to fight him on this just out of spite – how come it’s always Oikawa who has to go around deciding when they’re going to be having serious talks? – but he lasts all of ten seconds before he gives up, closing his eyes and leaning back on the couch with an irate sigh, scrubbing a hand through his hair.

“A little,” he says. “I’ve thought about it a little.” Oikawa waits expectantly – he can hear it in the calm silence between them – but Hajime just opens his eyes and cranes his neck to peer up at him instead. “What about you?”

“I asked first,” Oikawa says instantly but Hajime shakes his head.

“That’s exactly why you should go first. You ask, you answer.” He fixes him with an impatient gaze, notes the skittering of Oikawa’s eyes off to the side and the way his fingers tighten at the edges of the cushion he’s holding. “You can’t expect me to talk about it if you don’t.”

For a second Oikawa looks like he’s going to argue, but Hajime stiffens his jaw and looks him in the eye and all the fight goes out of him like the air from a balloon. He even deflates visibly, sinking into the couch with a hunch in his back so that they were almost the same height.

“I’ve… had some offers. For universities.”

“Already?” Hajime asks in surprise, because Oikawa might be good at what he does but they’re barely – barely – in their third year, and he’d been out of games for months with injury. Oikawa reads his expression in an instant because he smiles at him a little too widely.

“Contingent on making a full recovery, of course. And they’re more like… inquires, really.” He shrugs a little, pokes at a piece of fluff on the arm of the couch with too much interest to be anything but entirely feigned and says: “But I haven’t… responded or anything yet, you know?”

“Why not?” Hajime almost snaps, sitting up straighter so he can look down on Oikawa for possibly the first time since they were ten. “Shit Oikawa, there’s not a whole lot of people who get that kind of attention so quickly. This is a really good chance for you.”

Oikawa’s not even looking at him. He shrugs again. “I just want to wait and see. Keep my options open.” His voice is light and that’s what gives him away because Hajime knows the different pitches of his tone and this is one unique to him – to Hajime.

“You mean you’re waiting to see what I’m going to do,” he says bluntly and Oikawa freezes, long fingers stilled in their fidgeting and eyes that are still gazing a little off to Hajime’s left wide like he’d just smacked him in the gut.

Hajime doesn’t look away; keeps staring at Oikawa until the silence stretches and stretches, refuses to be the first one to make it snap, but Oikawa won’t even look at him directly and Hajime’s patience is already running fairly thin with how ridiculous Oikawa’s being here.

In the end his limited tolerance cracks and so does his temper.

“Ow!” Oikawa yelps, flinching forward to rub at the back of his head. “God, Iwa-chan, how did you grow up to be so violent?”

“How did you grow up to be so stupid?” Hajime resorts huffily and Oikawa gives him a dirty look. “You can’t go choosing your university based on what I’m doing, you fucking moron. That’s the opposite of a good idea.”

“But –.”

“Yeah, no.” Hajime stares him down with such intensity that anybody else but Oikawa might have fled. “Just because we might wind up in separate places doesn’t mean anything. If I could escape you that easily I already would have.”

Oikawa wrinkles his nose at him. “You’re not even nice when you’re being nice,” he complains. “What’s wrong with a good compliment every now and again?”

“You get enough compliments as it is,” Hajime sighs, turning back to his food and letting the anger go out of him because he doesn’t actually want to fight about this. “Just… don’t do anything dumb, okay?”

Oikawa doesn’t answer him but he does turn back to food with only a slightly sulky expression so Hajime counts it as a victory.

(and Oikawa never does ask him what he’s going to do again.)

.

Half a month before they’re due to retire from club activities Hajime gets confessed to.

The timing is awful; she corners him when he’s leaving the clubroom with Oikawa, stutters out his name and blushes absolutely red when the rest of the team whistle, patting him on the shoulders as they breeze by and wish him luck.

“Can I speak to you?” She asks, like Hajime hadn’t already figured out that was her intention. Her eyes flicker to Oikawa for a second and then back to Hajime. “In private?”

It’s on the tip of Hajime’s tongue to say no but he doesn’t have it in him to be that impolite to a girl, especially not one that looks like she might burst into tears if he so much as looks at her the wrong way.

“Go on Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says, shoving him forward so that Hajime stumbles. “I’ll wait for you in the classroom, okay?”

There’s something a little off in his voice and when Hajime turns around to rip into him over the push he finds the scolding dying on his lips because Oikawa looks… he doesn’t know, but he doesn’t look like Oikawa and that’s what matters.

He doesn’t get a chance to say or do anything though, because he’s being literally dragged off by a girl half his size and it’s all he can do to stare at Oikawa’s oddly hunched shoulders as he waves them off with a completely false cheer.

The confession is as awkward as Hajime thought it would be.

She tells him her name and her class and how long she’s been watching him, how cool she thinks he looks when he plays volleyball, that she’d really like to get to know him even if they had to start off as friends – and Hajime can barely remember anything she says.

She’s cute, he guesses; small, and adorably round and very, very feminine, but her eyes are about the only things that Hajime can actually focus on.

They’re a deep, dark brown. Chocolate, he thinks, and then he frowns because for some reason they’re just not the right shade.

“I’m sorry,” he blurts over the tail end of her confession – something about exchanging phone numbers if possible – and he gives the deepest, stiffest bow of his life. “I appreciate your feelings, but I’m unable to return them.”

The rest of the exchange lasts two or three minutes and Hajime can happily say they’re the most awkward of his life. By the time he manages to escape he’s worried that Oikawa won’t even be waiting for him anymore because he’s one of the most impatient people to ever exist.

Against all odds he’s leaning against Hajime’s desk when he gets back to the classroom and he looks… normal. Nothing like that odd slouching Hajime had seen in the hallway and he beams when he sees Hajime at the doorway.

“Iwa-chan! That was so quick!”

Hajime shrugs and rounds the desks so he can grab his bag from Oikawa. “It was just a rejection.” He slings his bag up over his shoulder and is turning to go when a hand reaches out to grab the back of his uniform and jerk him to a painful standstill. “Oikawa, what –.”

“You rejected her?” Oikawa blurts, and his eyes are rounder than Hajime really thinks is strictly necessary.

“Yeah,” Hajime snaps, rubbing at his side. “God, if you ever do that to me again I swear I’ll –.”

Why?”

Hajime frowns, a little unnerved. “Because I didn’t like her?” he says uncertainly. Oikawa continues to stare at him like he’s got two heads. “Oikawa, I didn’t even know her. She’s a first year. We’re graduating in, like, three months.”

“If that’s why you turned her down then you’re stupid,” Oikawa says and Hajime really can’t figure out why he’s being so stubborn about this.

Shouldn’t he be glad Hajime turned her down if – Hajime stops that thought in its track because that’s ridiculously unfair on Oikawa. It’s been years, an entire school lifetime almost, and he can’t assume that what’s going on here has anything at all to do with… that.

“Look,” he says tiredly, shaking Oikawa’s hand off the back of his jacket and scratching clumsily through his hair. “It was just… awkward. She cried, you know, when I turned her down.” Hajime winces at the mere memory. “I don’t know how to deal with girls when they cry. I thought she was going to punch me or something.”

Oikawa continues to stare at him for a moment but then his face breaks into a weirdly excitable grin. “Iwa-chan, you lady killer. I can’t believe you made a girl cry.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hajime says, turning to go for real this time. “Enough of this shit though, let’s gets going.”

For the rest of the day Oikawa is in a weirdly good mood – and Hajime doesn’t dare let himself imagine why.

.

The end of third year comes quicker than Hajime had thought possible and before he knows it they’re staring the big daunting question of what next right in the face.

Hajime keeps his options open until Oikawa finally accepts an offer to go to university in Tokyo. It’s one of the best schools in the country for volleyball, and Oikawa doesn’t tell him what he plans to do there but Hajime thinks at this point he could guess.

Hajime applies for a small school known for its medicine and when Oikawa reads over his application with a tight mouth and tighter fingers on Hajime’s wrist he figures it’s about time he told him.

“I’m going to study sports medicine. I want to become a sports therapist, work with people with athletic injuries and all that.” He doesn’t look at Oikawa’s face, stares at the ceiling as he lies back on his bed and winces against the almost crushing grip on his skin. “I’ve been thinking about it since first year, but I didn’t want to say anything until I knew if I could go through with it.”

“You’re…” Oikawa trails off, squeezes his fingers against the flutter of Hajime’s pulse in the grove of his wrist.

“Yeah,” Hajime says awkwardly and shrugs even though it wrinkles the covers beneath his back and he’s not even sure Oikawa is looking at him.

He doesn’t say I want to help people the way I couldn’t help you but he knows Oikawa hears it anyway.

“You’re so stupid sometimes Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says unexpectedly into the silence and Hajime bristles in offense instantly.

“Oi –,” he starts to snap, but cuts himself off abruptly with a heavy choke of air as Oikawa collapses across him with absolutely no warning, like he’s completely forgotten he has a good few inches and several pounds on him. “Oikawa, what the hell?”

Oikawa hums a little and rolls so that they’re chest to chest, pushing his face into the crook of Hajime’s neck with a gentle nudge and Hajime freezes, hands hovering over Oikawa’s back because they’ve done this a thousand times but not like this – not awake and alert in the middle of the day with the afternoon sun illuminating everything.

“Relax,” Oikawa huffs. “How many times have I got to tell you I’m not going to do anything? Have some faith in me.”

Hajime has heard Oikawa say that more than he can possibly count, but finally the question springs to his mind: do you want to?

It’d been nearly three years since Oikawa had… Was it possible he still –

Hajime let his hands fall to Oikawa’s back, fingers fisting in the material almost unconsciously, and it occurs to him for perhaps the first time that this is strange. This thing they do – Oikawa touching him where he pleases, crawling in close so that they were pressed together all the way up, Hajime letting him – is just on the wrong side of the unspecified boundaries of friendship.

That Oikawa hadn’t wanted to go to a university where Hajime couldn’t follow him and Hajime had waited to make his choices so that he’d know he could.

Hajime doesn’t realize he’s biting his lip until Oikawa props his head up on his chest and frowns at him, one of his hands reaching up to poke his cheek lightly. “You’re going to bite your lip off if you keep that up.”

Hajime grunts noncommittally and Oikawa goes quiet for a second before:

“Does this bother you?”

Hajime blinks and looks down at him, heart stuttering unevenly in his chest, because once again Oikawa was reading him in those moments when he really wished he wouldn’t. For a beat he considers playing dumb, but that hadn’t worked on Oikawa since they were as small as they now are big.

Instead of the truth he asks in return: “Are you going to do anything?”

Oikawa frowns at him. “Of course not, I keep telling you that.”

Hajime shrugs and looks anywhere that isn’t Oikawa. “Then it’s fine.”

He can feel the rise and fall of Oikawa’s chest against his own, every breath he takes that presses sticky skin against sticky skin as he breathes in, and then the slight feeling of air sliding past his neck as it comes out.

Oikawa smiles at him and Hajime tells himself it’s not strange – the way it makes it harder to breathe is not strange.

(it’s just the weight of Oikawa on his chest and there’s nothing more to it.)

.

They move in together, naturally.

A small two bedroom, fifth floor apartment. Hajime’s key sticks in the door, and the cold water in the bathroom always smells a little rusty, and Oikawa can never quite remember to pay their power bill on time so there’s a stack of warning notices by their fridge and…

And it’s horrible and amazing at the same time.

It’s a short bus trip to Hajime’s university and a slightly longer walk to Oikawa’s. There’s nothing at all special about the beaten furniture that has seen a dozen other students through their first years away from home or the strange stains in the living room carpet, but whenever Hajime walks through the door he finds the knots in his shoulder unclenching all on their own.

“My first home with Iwa-chan,” Oikawa crows teasingly not long after they move in, and Hajime can’t even bring himself to scold him for it because there is a charm, he thinks, in coming back from soggy winter afternoons to Oikawa pushing hot drinks into his hands that taste like ass but he makes himself drink anyway and the feeling of Oikawa wrapping himself around his shoulders to share his body warmth if Hajime so much as shivers around him.

Two weeks into winter their heater breaks down in the middle of a cold snap and Hajime doesn’t even realize until Oikawa throws open his bedroom door without even knocking.

“Jesus Christ,” Hajime hisses, but when he goes to pinch the bridge of his nose in irritation it occurs to him his fingers are going a little blue about the nailbeds and they’re shaking something fierce.

The look Oikawa gives him is almost as icy as the room suddenly feels around him. “Iwa-chan,” he says with the most adult sounding tone Hajime has ever heard him use. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I…” He opens his mouth, shuts it wordlessly when Oikawa honest to god frowns at him. “Studying?” He hedges, knowing as soon as the word is out of his mouth that it is absolutely not the right answer here. “It’s not even midnight?” He tries again.

Oikawa narrows his eyes at him. “Iwa-chan,” he says, “it’s below freezing out and the heat in our apartment broke an hour ago.”

“… Oh.” Hajime glances down at the notes he’s been taking for the last half hour or so and realizes that somewhere along the way his handwriting had slipped until it was almost as sloppy as Oikawa’s. He’s not sure how he didn’t notice that.

Oikawa steps forward and closes both his textbook and his notebook easily, settling large hands on Hajime’s shoulders and guiding him up out of his desk and drawing him towards the bed with a steady pressure at his back.

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell a med student that sitting alone in his freezing apartment in the middle of the night is a bad idea.” Oikawa says ‘med student’ with a particular scathing dip in his tone that Hajime knows is only a recent addition to his vocabulary.

“I had it under control,” he mutters but makes no move to pull free because Oikawa had been getting like this a lot lately, taking care of him when Hajime let his guard down for too long and it was weird because it was always Hajime looking after Oikawa but it was also –

It was also sort of nice.

Oikawa pulls back the covers on the bed in one fluid movement and bundles Hajime in like he’s not perfectly capable of doing it himself. Hajime obliges him though with a certain amount of humor, because it’s been a long time since somebody fluffed his pillows for him and tucked him in like this.

“You know I can do this myself, right?”

Oikawa sniffs at him as he tugs up the sixth or seventh blanket over his shoulders. “I don’t trust you. The moment I turn my back you’re going to go back to studying again.”

Hajime actually laughs at that one; can’t help the surprised burst of air coming from his winter chapped lips. Oikawa pauses, frowns at him and looks a little wounded. “Sorry,” Hajime says around the hand he has pushed against his mouth to stifle a smile. “Sorry, no it’s nothing you were doing. It’s just…”

“Just?” Oikawa prompts sullenly.

“Now you know what it was like dealing with you in high school.”

Oikawa stares at him blankly for a second, but Hajime can see the smile edging at the corners of his mouth even though Oikawa bites at his lips and tries for a pout that looks ridiculous when his cheeks are flushed red from the all of the layers he’s wearing. “You’re so mean, Iwa-chan. Here I am spoiling you, and you’re just making fun of me.”

Hajime rolls his eyes exaggeratedly and shuffles over in his bed which is a lot harder than you think when he’s got enough blankets smothering him to probably survive a nuclear war. The bed is a single, but at this point in his life Hajime doesn’t know if he’d know how to share anything larger.

Oikawa pauses for a second, raises an eyebrow at him curiously and it takes Hajime a minute to understand why because they’ve done this a hundred times by now so why –

But Hajime had never started it.

It was always Oikawa who tested the boundaries of what Hajime was willing to offer. It was always Oikawa who touched him first, came in close and pressed skin to skin.

He knew the knowledge should have alarmed him more than it did, because this was Hajime changing the established rules of whatever the fuck it was that was going on between them, but he was cold and the bed was too big suddenly and Oikawa had literally just saved him from frostbite and he was already holding the blankets open anyway so why the fuck not.

“Are you going to stand there all night,” Hajime says tiredly, “or are you going to come in.”

Oikawa fumbles for a moment, tripping over both his own tongue and feet in his hurry. “I’ll just, um, get the light.” Hajime watches in amusement as he stumbles across the room to jam the light off with such a heavy slap that he half suspects that Oikawa’s body had learnt to instantly equate urgency with being on the court, but in moments he’s back again, and the bed squeaks lightly as he hoists a knee up and slowly shuffles on in.

It takes only a second to figure out the logistics of it – Hajime hadn’t been lying when he said they’d done this a hundred times – and in the space of a single breath they’re curled up just right next to each other, Oikawa’s arms bundling him up close, feet hooked in the curve of ankles and sharing all the space they have.

For a moment Hajime remembers when they were young, before the injury, and sharing a bed used to mean backs pressed against each other, the warm space where their shirts slipped just slightly and sweaty skin brushed sweaty skin.

There had been a charm in that too, but it’s hard to remember, buried beneath so many nights of touches like this.

Once again the crushing thought of this is strange this isn’t how normal friends behave flickers through what little portion of his brain isn’t going drowsy from the new warmth around him, but he squashes it back down with minimal effort.

He and Oikawa hadn’t been normal friends for a very long time, if ever.

Oikawa’s skin is pleasant and soft against his own, is second nature to him by now, and Hajime doesn’t think he has it in him to push him away at this point.

And he doesn’t know if he’d ever try.

.

Their morning routine goes a little like this;

Hajime gets up first – he has a lab three mornings of the week – and sets the kettle to boil while he has a quick shower, huddling close to the tiny space heater by the sink as he dries his hair and wraps a towel around his waist to head back to his room for clothes.

By the time he gets out of the bathroom Oikawa has slouched into the kitchen and is stirring two cups of tea at the counter. Hajime walks past him on the way back to his room and Oikawa wordlessly hands him a mug even though Hajime had always taken coffee in the morning up until they moved in together.

(it never really occurs to either of them that they could make one without the other.)

He dresses as quickly as he can in the frigid morning air, sneaking sips of tea in between and scrunching his nose at the way Oikawa has clearly heaped in six teaspoons of sugar again even though Hajime distinctly remembers telling him yesterday morning, and the morning before, and the morning before, not to.

When he comes out Oikawa is halfway through making a simple breakfast. Neither of them are big eaters in the morning, but considering Oikawa spends half his day on the court Hajime had put his foot down about skipping meals a while ago.

They talk in small sentences, quiet words that grow louder as the sleep fades and Oikawa’s endless energy starts to bloom again. By the time Hajime stacks the dishes in the sink and hoists his bag up over his shoulder Oikawa has already started clinging to him and talking a mile an hour about something he really couldn’t give a shit about.

“Let go of me, I’m going to be late,” he says as he struggles out to the foyer, and he knows that Oikawa is probably clinging to him just to piss him off at this point but it’s too early to be throwing punches.

Oikawa blows in his ear a little, a cool whoosh that sets his skin on edge, but manages to jump back and avoid Hajime’s elbow, cackling loudly all the while.

“Don’t skip your classes today,” he says as he shoves his shoes on and Oikawa leans lazily against the doorway to the living area, hair sleep-mussed in a way Hajime knows he only gets to see because of the eighteen years of friendship between them. “One of your classmates called me yesterday. You have a test coming up, you know that right?”

Oikawa shrugs and yawns sleepily. “Yes dear.”

Hajime rolls his eyes and when he gets up he places his hand in Oikawa’s hair and gently shoves him a little. “Don’t stay too long at practice,” he says.

“Yes dear,” Oikawa says again and Hajime hides a smile against the shoulder of his coat as he turns to leave.

When the door shuts behind him, Oikawa goes back to bed until he has to get up in an hour.

It’s easy and comfortable and maybe not very conventional.

But it works for them.

It works.

.

The first break after starting university they go back to Miyagi for a weekend.

It’s not a long visit, three days at most, but Hajime’s mother has been pestering him nonstop for weeks about it – I haven’t seen you in so long, I’m afraid you’ve wasted away to skin and bones; bring Tooru too – and he might be older now, but he still doesn’t have the strength to refuse his mother anything.

They take an early morning train and Oikawa spends the whole trip dozing off against his shoulder, drooling slightly in a way that would have Hajime shoving him away so fast if not for the fact Oikawa’s been staying longer at practice lately and he remembers the familiar exhaustion of too many hours and not enough energy to match them.

By the time they arrive at the station Oikawa’s hair is a mess from all his snuggling and Hajime’s shoulder is numb from the weight of his stupid, big head. Predictably the minute Oikawa catches sight of his hair in a window he refuses to leave the station and Hajime winds up standing outside the bathroom tapping his foot impatiently as Oikawa fusses inside and contemplates how he might just shave it all off while Oikawa sleeps.

He’s so wrapped up in his impatience that he doesn’t even realize he’s been called until a hand settles on his shoulder and:

“– Iwaizumi-san?”

Hajime jumps about a foot in the air and when he whips around it’s to see Kunimi of all people standing by his shoulder and looking about as expressionless as usual.

“Kunimi,” he says unnecessarily and tries not to look like he just suffered a minor heart attack. “Sorry, I was… Surprised. What are you doing here?”

It’s not been long since he’d seen him last in the scheme of things – six months maybe – but it feels like his old teammate has grown taller, and it’s a little irritating in a way that Hajime knows is childish.

“I’m picking up my grandmother,” he says with a shrug. “Are you back for the break?”

“Yeah,” Hajime says, a little awkwardly because he likes Kunimi well enough of course, but it’s been a while and last time he’d seen him they’d been teammates and it’s a little hard to switch from that to ex-teammates at the drop of a hat. “Just for a few days.”

Kunimi’s eyes flicker around for a second. “Where’s Oikawa-san?”

“He’s in the bathroom,” Hajime answers instantly before really comprehending the question – the insinuation that if Hajime was here Oikawa wasn’t going to be too far away.

It bugs him, for some reason.

Kunimi doesn’t even blink, hums a little under his breath for a second. Hajime’s starting to feel awkward for no real reason that he can explain – probably because Kunimi is looking at him like he’s expecting something somehow and Hajime doesn’t know what that means – so he smiles as broadly as he can and claps a hand on Kunimi’s shoulder and asks: “How have you been? You look like you’ve grown taller. You’re probably not that much shorter than Oikawa by now.”

“I suppose,” Kunimi replies indifferently. “I’ve been fine.” He hesitates for a moment. “The team’s doing well. Do you think you and Oikawa-san might have time to stop by before you leave?”

This time Hajime’s smile is a deal more genuine. “I’m sure Oikawa would be disgustingly delighted to do as much.”

Kunimi’s expression relaxes slightly into something that’s not quite a smile himself but nearly. “That’s a relief. I’ve got to get going, but please pass along my greetings to Oikawa-san.”

“Yeah, sure,” Hajime says, and waves as Kunimi trots off back around the corner to the central station area and out of view.

(he waits five more minutes before he goes into the bathroom and drags Oikawa kicking and screaming out.)

.

That evening for the first time in nearly as long as he can remember, Hajime has dinner without Oikawa.

It’s… nice, he guesses, sitting across from his mother and watching his father try and convince his picky sister to eat her vegetables. But somehow it’s just not the same.

He feels strangely off kilter without Oikawa flicking rice at him to get his attention, stealing mushrooms off his plate whenever his back is turned and grinning at him broadly when Hajime catches him in the act.

He can’t help but to wonder what Oikawa is doing, if he’s eating, if his parents have remembered that he’ll only eat carrots if you cut them up real small and squirrel them away inside something else. Did they let Oikawa smuggle milk bread to the table and ruin his appetite? Had they forgotten that you needed to keep table-time talk away from volleyball or else he’d be too distracted to actually eat?

It’s stupid. Oikawa can take care of himself – somewhat – and his parents might not know him the way Hajime does, but they can be trusted to look after their own son. But all the same Hajime feels like dinner stretches on too long and by the time he’s allowed to escape up to his own room he’s somehow itchy under the skin in a way he can’t explain.

Doesn’t want to explain, maybe.

He barely takes the time to shut his bedroom door behind him before he’s pulling out his phone, bringing up Oikawa’s number – they call each other slightly more these days, little do we need milk’s or what time are you coming home tonight – and thumbing the call button.

For a moment he has the flashing thought that maybe Oikawa is doing something with his parents, that Hajime probably shouldn’t be calling like an overzealous housewife, that they see each other every damn day and one night apart shouldn’t have him fidgety and restless like this, but the phone is already ringing at his ear and Hajime isn’t the type to back out of a decision once it’s made.

It rings once – Hajime bites his lips – and then there’s a click.

Hey,” Oikawa smiles, and Hajime can’t see him, but he knows – he knows. “I was just about to call you.

Hajime lets out a breath that has been building up in him since he stepped through the door and sinks down heavily on his bed. “How are your parents?”

That’s rude, Iwa-chan. You should ask how I am first.”

“I know how you are; I saw you three hours ago.”

Oikawa chuckles a little, the way he does when he’s aware Hajime is being grumpy for the sake of his pride more than anything. “They’re fine. They missed me, of course. I’d forgotten that my mother cooks so much better than you.”

“Oi,” Hajime snaps even though it’s not really a lie.

Oikawa laughs a little. “I’m joking.”

“No you’re not.”

No,” Oikawa agrees, “but I still prefer Iwa-chan’s cooking; even if your rice is always too sticky.

Hajime tries very hard not to feel flattered anyway. “Cook for yourself then you little shit, see if I care.”

Iwa-chan,” Oikawa whines and Hajime huffs at him.

“Anyway, are you free tomorrow for a bit?”

Do you miss me already?”

He does, but that’s not what he’s aiming for here. “I thought we could go by the school; visit the team for a bit.”

Oikawa doesn’t even hesitate. “Of course. They probably miss me at least half as much as you do.”

“I don’t miss you,” Hajime says automatically. “I keep telling you, I saw you a few hours ago.”

I miss you,” Oikawa says; no pause, no shame, just an honest, blunt admission and Hajime wishes he’d stop doing that because it always make it just that little harder to breathe. “It doesn’t feel right not being in the same place as you anymore.”

“You’re two streets away.”

Too far.”

“Jesus Christ, you’re so needy.” Hajime works to sound irritated, but there’s a warble in his voice that tells him it’s not working. He’s not nearly as impenetrable as he likes to act, and there’s no way he could pretend like Oikawa’s confessions don’t get to him.

He’s known Oikawa all his life and he never manages to get over this.

I could sneak over to your place,” Oikawa suggests childishly. “It’d be just like when we were kids all over again.

“Or you could just shut up and go to sleep,” Hajime says, because he’s not tempted to say yes – he’s not. “You’ll see me tomorrow anyway. Have some patience.”

Oikawa sighs and it crackles down the phone line. “You never let me have any fun, Iwa-chan. You used to let me come over whenever.”

Goodnight, Oikawa,” Hajime says deliberately and he goes to hang-up but at the very last second Oikawa breathes:

Goodnight, Hajime.”

The name and the sigh of Oikawa’s voice follow him into sleep.

.

Hajime wakes up to Oikawa pounding on his door – so practically business as usual.

It’s not exactly necessary – they both remember the rigid training regime for the club that had only strengthened under Oikawa’s captainship and Hajime knows Oikawa could have given him another half hour – but it’s so very hard to resist when you’ve got over six-and-a-half-foot of solid volleyball player dragging you bodily out of bed.

They eat breakfast at Hajime’s place and his mother fusses about Oikawa something awful, practically ignoring Hajime because realistically Oikawa had always been her favourite son anyway.

“I thought you were in a hurry,” Hajime grunts when Oikawa bats his pretty eyelashes and gets a second cup of tea out of his mother.

Oikawa rolls his eyes at him but obligingly drinks it at twice the speed he normally does and Hajime gets to watch him choke on the last mouthful which is oddly fulfilling.

They shuffle out of the house with a promise to be back in time for Hajime’s mother to make them lunch and begin the familiar and awfully nostalgic trek to the school. It feels oddly… natural. It’s been ages since he’d done this, and he’s not wearing a uniform or toting a sports bag over his back but Oikawa is by his side and that’s really all he remembers from high school.

Volleyball and Oikawa – and they’re both one and the same, really.

There’s a heavy push against his side and Hajime glances up to see Oikawa leaning in close so that their shoulders brush as they walk. He’s looking at him with something that seems half curious and half indulgent. “What are you thinking about, Iwa-chan? You’re off in your own little world.”

I'm thinking about how nothing has changed. I'm  thinking about how you're  still by my side when everything says you probably shouldn't  be. I'm t hinking about how one night away from you was enough to make me irritated in a way I can't even describe.

“I’m thinking about how my sister got a bow in your hair at breakfast without you even noticing,” Hajime says and walks off before Oikawa can respond.

.

They wind up getting to the school gymnasium ten minutes late after Oikawa latches onto the nearest reflective surface to desperately fix his hair – oh my god, what is the point, it’s only going to get messy playing volleyball – but when they walk in the club bursts into an eruption of noise.

Oikawa, naturally, soaks it all up, ruffling hair and swaggering about like a king. “What’s all this; if this is how much energy you have left you can’t possibly be training properly.”

Hajime hovers off to the side, letting Oikawa have his moment and watching fondly as he’s reminded that yes, Oikawa really is this popular everywhere he goes, no matter how long it’s been.

His charisma is undeniable and when he smiles – real smiles like he does in moments like these, not the ones he doles out to his fans – there’s this pull in Hajime’s gut that almost makes him physically gravitate towards him. He wonders if it’s like that for others too.

“Iwaizumi-san,” Kunimi says and Hajime turns to see him standing next to him, hair appropriately ruffled in a way that confirms that Oikawa probably got to him first. “Thanks for coming.”

Hajime grins and shrugs. “It’s not like it was hard. It’s good for us too, you know. See how far you guys have come now.”

Kunimi gives him a small twitch of his mouth that on another person would probably be called a smile and there’s a light pinking in his cheeks. “It looks like Oikawa-san is doing well.”

Hajime glances up to see that in the literal three minutes since they’d walked in the door Oikawa has already managed to procure a volleyball and is chatting amicably with what looks like some star struck first years, one hand on his hip and the other waving in the air to reinforce some point or another. “Yeah,” Hajime says fondly. “I think he missed this place more than he cares to admit.” The so do I is silent but obvious.

He expects Kunimi to maybe call him out on it but instead he’s oddly quiet. Well, maybe not so odd for Kunimi, but it unsettles Hajime enough that he glances towards him.

Kunimi is staring at him with a contemplative look, lips thin and eyes narrow. Very suddenly Hajime remembers that out of all the others on the team, Kunimi was the one who’d blossomed the most under Oikawa.

They were the same kind of person – observant to a fault and strangely perceptive.

“What?” He says, a little gruffer than he intends as he folds his arms over his chest.

“You know, Iwaizumi-san,” Kunimi says softly, “if you keep pretending like you don’t know, a lot of things are going to pass you by.”

Hajime blinks at him, astounded for a number of reasons, but before he can so much as open his mouth to ask what the hell that was Oikawa is sweeping over, loud and unstoppable and completely destroying the moment.

The atmosphere shatters and Kunimi is hauled off to practice some spikes with his former captain.

For the rest of the visit Hajime is unsettled and jumpy and –

He can’t look at Oikawa. 

.

The ride back to Tokyo is awkward.

Oikawa talks and occasionally Hajime remembers to grunt out an agreement or two, answers questions when Oikawa wheedles him just right, but it becomes very obvious that he’s doing it to humor him.

It goes silent after a while – Oikawa pouting out the window and Hajime staring fixatedly in his lap because if he looks at Oikawa he’s not a hundred per cent sure what he’ll do. Something stupid probably. Something that’ll compromise eighteen years of friendship definitely.

Part of him wants to be mad at Kunimi for pointing out the obvious and making him think the thoughts he’s been putting off for years, but he can’t quite manage it because Hajime has never been really good at this denial shit and really… it’d only been a matter of time.

His feelings for Oikawa were a lot like a murky, muddy river. Confusing, unclear and liable to rush at him until he drowned when he least expected it.

The trip stretches longer than Hajime remembers and by the time they arrive at the station and taxi it back to the apartment he is strangely exhausted for someone who just spent five hours doing absolutely nothing.

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says softly, prying Hajime’s suitcase from his hand without another word and the look he gives him is the one where his eyes crinkle just the wrong way at the corner and his lips pull tight so as to say I’m worried about you but I’m not going to push.

It makes Hajime feel like shit but he lets Oikawa haul his suitcase up the several flights of stairs anyway because he doesn’t know if he could get words out right now if he tried. His throat is strangely sticky and his eyes stay fixed at the small of Oikawa’s back ahead of him – only that doesn’t help like he wants it to because he can see every flex of his muscles, the pull of shirt as he climbs the steps and the brief flash of smooth skin every time it hitches up.

He remembers when they were kids and Oikawa had been boney and short and it’d been Hajime that carried the heavy things for him. When exactly did that change and why was it he’d never quite noticed? When did Oikawa become so much bigger than him, big enough to dwarf out everything else so that he was the only thing Hajime ever saw?

Oikawa isn’t even out of breath when they reach their apartment – Hajime tries to pretend that he isn’t either, but he’s been off the court for far too long and he can definitely feel a burn in his lungs that he’s not proud of – and he’s trying to wrestle the door open with both of their suitcases tucked under one arm and it’s endearingly stupid.

“Here,” Hajime mutters, and he takes them both before Oikawa can protest – and he would if Hajime gives him the chance; when he gets it in his head that it’s his turn to help Hajime it can be difficult to dissuade him.

Oikawa grimaces a little but finally manages to get the door open so it’s really a point for him.

They shoulder their way in, kicking off shoes and leaving bags in the foyer, and Oikawa is already making a straight beeline for the kitchen by the time Hajime has locked the door behind them.

“Do you want a drink, Iwa-chan?” He calls out behind him and there’s the soft click of the kettle being flicked on.

He grunts again – it’s a bad habit at this point, but he knows that Oikawa can translate it – and heads to his room without another word.

The feeling of relief that floods him the moment he has a closed door between them is so intense it nearly makes him dizzy. It’s an alien feeling; despite the front Hajime puts up he’s not exactly used to wanting space away from his best friend. Breathing room, sure – he was only human – but he can count the amount of times he’d desperately wanted to be alone on one hand.

It’s seriously stupid, even he knows that, but his head has only gotten messier and messier the more he’d tried to think and he just – he needs a timeout. He needs a chance to think about Oikawa – to think about them – without having the object of it all right in front of him, watching him with a concerned light in his eyes and needy hands because Oikawa has always been the sort to combine cuddling and comfort.

If you keep pretending like you don’t know, a lot of things are going to pass you by.

It was embarrassing that a kid two years his junior, a kid who for all intents and purposes was meant to look at him with respect and recognition, had been the one to point this whole fucking shit show out to him.

Of fucking course Hajime knew. How could he not? But knowing and doing were two separate things entirely.

It’d been over four years since Oikawa had confessed to him – four years of pretending like those words, the way Oikawa had looked with his stupid middle school hair fluffed out on Hajime’s lap, the shape his lips had made as he breathed out each syllable with such intense clarity… pretending like they weren’t still constantly on his mind.

Hajime had loved Oikawa back then, but he’d been too young and surprised to know whether it was love or in love. He’s older now, not really that much wiser, and honestly still just as confused, but

He’s pretty sure that the way he feels when Oikawa’s curled around him breathing out his name in his sleep, the way he feels when Oikawa is late home and hadn’t remembered to text and Hajime is stuck at the kitchen table with cold tea in his hands and a feeling like dread in his gut even though it’s only half an hour past when he was due back, the way he feels when Oikawa smiles at him with such blinding adoration… he’s pretty sure that those feelings stopped being platonic a while back.

There’s a knock on his door – soft; the lightest scraping of knuckles against wood, but Hajime still startles anyway – and Oikawa calling his name.

“Iwa-chan? Can I come in?”

Hajime bites down on the urge to say no, getting to his feet to open it himself which is just as well because the first thing he notices when he does is that Oikawa’s got a steaming hot mug in each hand and has his nose wrinkled the way it gets when he’s uncomfortable but trying to brave it out.

He wasn’t even holding them by the fucking handles, like a fucking dork.

“Here,” Hajime says, but he reaches forward to take them at the exact second that Oikawa’s heat tolerance seems to give out and his hand jerks – just a little, really, but more than enough to send half a mug of steaming coffee splashing over his knuckles.

Predictably Oikawa yelps like he’d been slapped and promptly drops both mugs so that they fall to cascade half on the carpet and half over the hems of Hajime’s jeans.

“Iwa-chan! Are you –?”

“– I’m fine,” Hajime grunts, stepping forward to grab Oikawa by the wrist and drag him out of his room, walking straight through the mess because honestly he was already soaked, there wasn’t much more harm it could do him. “Jesus fuck, you idiot. What did you think you were doing?”

He can feel Oikawa’s unnaturally warm hand against his as he pulls him into the kitchen, the way his skin is already going rough and dry from the burning liquid, and Hajime can’t decide if he’s more freaked out or angry as he shoves him over to the sink.

“Iwa-chan, it’s okay, I’m not –.” Oikawa cuts himself off with a yelp as Hajime yanks him closer, turning the tap angrily so that cold water spews out and over his scalded hand with perhaps more force than is really advisable, but Hajime’s heart is still galloping away from him and he thinks his fingers are shaking around Oikawa’s wrist and they’re definitely too tight on his skin but he can’t bring himself to pull away.

“What were you thinking?” He hisses.

Oikawa mutters something along the lines of its fine, it’s nothing serious and Hajime rolls his eyes because he can hear the petulant warble in Oikawa’s voice, the sniff when Hajime reaches around him so that he can use both of his hands to manoeuvre Oikawa’s skin beneath the water; for somebody who spends a lot of time getting stupid injuries he’d never really learnt even the basics of first-aid.

They’re quiet for a moment, the gurgle of the water and Oikawa’s slightly pained breathing loud in the stillness of the kitchen, and Hajime allows himself to step in closer, to press their bodies together tighter so he was all but sagging against Oikawa’s back.

His mouth tastes like panic and his heartbeat is only just starting to ease off; the adrenaline has left him a little unsteady and drained, and he doesn’t even think about it when he moves his hands under the water with Oikawa’s, allowing their fingers to slide together in a way that had nothing to do with cold water and superficial burns.

“You’re a setter,” he murmurs against Oikawa’s back and feels him go still. “Your hands are your life, take better care of them.”

“That’s what you’re here for though,” Oikawa says, and Hajime has the impression that it’s maybe meant to come out as something like a joke, but Oikawa sounds a tad breathless and his fingers are curling together with Hajime’s own.

Hajime has the distant impression he maybe needs to step away, to go back to fussing about Oikawa’s injury and let the moment go, but Oikawa’s back is really warm against his cheek and his fingers feel cool against his and the sound of the water rushing from the tap is soothing – although probably not good for their bills – and Hajime just…

Stays.

.

Something changes between them after the trip back to Miyagi and all that it encompasses.

It’s not… it’s not a bad change. But it’s not a good one either.

Oikawa comes to his room at night less – only creaks open the door to crawl in bed with him after the difficult days that had stretched long and hard or when their schedules has been so out of sync that he can count the amount of times they’ve seen each other on one hand.

The nights he does though he holds Hajime tighter than ever before, so tight it gets hard to breathe, and Hajime has to wonder if that’s his doing too; if maybe the distance he keeps putting between them has left Oikawa nervous and uneasy the same way he is.

As for everything else… Hajime tries to stop thinking about it.

Oikawa’s confession had been a literal lifetime ago; they’d been ridiculously young and a lot stupid and things like that changed. They were grown up now – still pretty stupid – but Hajime didn’t… Oikawa couldn’t…

Hajime just didn’t know. He didn’t fucking know. What Oikawa felt for him, what he felt for Oikawa – any of it.

He didn’t want to know because he was fucking terrified.

In the nights where Oikawa fell asleep with his head against Hajime’s chest, fingers laced so effortlessly together, he’d watch the flutter of his stupidly long lashes against his skin, the wet twist of his mouth as he slept, and he couldn’t see a future where taking this a step further didn’t end badly.

Oikawa was dumb and annoying and everything he said made Hajime want to punch him in his fucking pretty boy face and he was absolutely Hajime’s everything.

He didn’t want to ruin that. He didn’t want to try and change their relationship after so long and have it blow up in his face. He didn’t want to lose waking up to Oikawa on his chest, to his hands around his shoulders when Hajime was really trying to hurry out the door in the mornings, the way Oikawa would always look for him at the edge of the court and wink before giving his first serve…

He didn’t want to lose the way all of that made him feel – he didn’t want to say something, anything, and have Oikawa look at him and say too late.

So Hajime bit his tongue and took a step back from Oikawa – from them.

Just until I’m over it, he told himself whenever he pulled away from Oikawa’s touch, just until then.

.

It’s two in the morning and Oikawa isn’t home and all Hajime has to go on is a flighty don’t wait up text from midnight.

He tries calling him but it doesn’t even ring because Oikawa is the kind of dick that turns off his phone once he’s said his piece and lets other people worry their fucking heads off about him.

Hajime sends him a few messages telling him to get his ass home – and of course gets no response.

Pissy and worried he jams his phone in one pocket and his keys in the other and leaves.

He’s been to Oikawa’s university before of course – to pick him up from practice or for actual games – but he’d never done it in the middle of the night and he feels uncomfortable and restless as he walks through the campus, shoulders up to his ears and trying not to scowl too hard because Oikawa tells him it makes him look like he’s just walked away from a murder scene.

He keeps his eyes fixed forward and by the time he reaches the gym he’s even more unsettled than when he’d set out, hands fisted in his pockets and completely and utterly ready to strangle Oikawa as soon as he sets eyes on him.

The gymnasium door is open just slightly; a sharp triangle of light spilling out to bump along the steps and Hajime can already hear the steady and familiar thumping of a volleyball bouncing against parquet flooring. It’s so nostalgic that he almost pauses for a moment before he remembers that he’s not exactly here to sight-see.

Oikawa is standing across from the net, looking down as he bounces a volleyball once, twice, and then serves it with alarming accuracy across the court. He grimaces, and raises an arm to run across his forehead and even from where Hajime is standing at the steps he can see him frowning, muttering under his breath as he fumbles for another one in the cart next to him.

He’s drenched in sweat, his workout gear sticking to him in uncomfortable places and gluing his hair to his forehead messily. It’s obvious as hell that he’s been at this for longer than is healthy – for longer than is fucking permitted with his bad knee.

“What,” Hajime says and Oikawa jerks upright like he’s been slapped, “do you think you’re doing?”

“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa gasps, and both guilt and panic fly across his face in the spare second before he gets his expressions under control. “What are you doing here so late? Shouldn’t you be at home?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Hajime says snidely, and takes the last step into the gym, rattling the door closed behind him. “It’s two in the fucking morning Oikawa; clean this shit up and let’s go.”

Oikawa wrinkles his nose a little and sweat trembles and falls from the tip and it is absolutely gross and Hajime refuses to find it endearing. “Its fine, I haven’t been here that long.” Hajime cannot believe that Oikawa really thinks he can get away with such a blatant lie at this point in their friendship. “I’m not going to stay much longer, so –.”

“No, you’re not,” Hajime confirms as he walks closer. “I mean it asshole, pack this shit up and let’s go.”

“Half an hour,” Oikawa says, quick as a whip, obviously sensing Hajime’s mood.

“No.” Hajime pauses. “Ten minutes.”

“Twenty – and I promise to come home earlier tomorrow night,” Oikawa offers, trying to look firm and intimidating but ruining it all by biting at his lip and furrowing his brow like a petulant child. He’s holding the volleyball in his hands like he thinks Hajime is going to take it from him.

Hajime wants to say no again, bargain him down further even, but he knows that look and when Oikawa gets to be stubborn like this there’s no force on earth that could move him. Better to accept the deal now than to fight about it later.

“Fine,” he sighs, and swaggers past him towards the benches, elbowing him in the side as he goes. “But I’m staying here to supervise – and twenty minutes means twenty minutes.”

“I can count you know,” Oikawa sniffs and Hajime bites back his oh, I wasn’t sure because Oikawa’s already turned back to the court, intent on making use of every second he’s been allotted.

Hajime settles down on the cool metal and watches as Oikawa starts serving balls again; running, jumping, slapping them hard across the court so the crisp sound of flesh on rubber echoes comfortingly in the building.

It’s not like he hasn’t seen Oikawa in action since they came to university, but it’d been a while and Hajime has to admit he’s sort of missed this. The look Oikawa gets as he moves, the way his fingertips seem to skim the ball just right as it leaves his palm, the satisfaction that colours his eyes just a shade lighter – Hajime loves it all.

Oikawa Tooru is never as complete as when he’s standing on a volleyball court.                

He’s fully prepared to settle in for the next half hour or so, and when he looks down at his watch to mark the time that’s when it happens.

There’s the sharp squeak of shoes slipping horrifically on a sweat-slickened floor and Hajime glances up just in time to catch the ghastly sight of Oikawa falling – legs slipping to fold underneath him as he crumples awkwardly to the ground.

Hajime is on his feet before he’s even aware of it, sprinting towards Oikawa so fast his own shoes slide a little on the floor and he skids the last few meters, drops to his knees so quick that he can feel the friction burn his shins.

“Are you okay? What happened? What’s wrong?” His hands are everywhere, on Oikawa’s shoulders, at his hips, sliding down to tremble across his knee like he’s afraid that too much pressure will make it break.

Oikawa is white as a sheet and he reaches for Hajime the same way Hajime reaches for him, grabbing his shirt so Hajime think he’s about to haul him in closer but instead he just – clutches him and breathes.

“Oikawa –.”

“I’m okay,” Oikawa blurts, tightening his fingers so that Hajime can feel the scrape of his nails even through his shirt. He shifts a little, straightens one leg and then the other so that Hajime is kneeling between them. He’s cringing a little, but it’s in preparation for pain he apparently can’t feel. “Its fine, I just fell. I… I think I’m okay.”

Hajime can’t feel anything and he raises his slightly shaky fingers up to cup Oikawa’s cheeks, leaning forward so that he can stare at him like a hawk, scanning for even the slightest flinch of discomfort, evidence that Oikawa is lying to him.

Instead, all he sees is overwhelming relief. Oikawa lets out a slightly winded laugh and raises his hands off the floor so that he can catch Hajime’s wrist with slender fingers. “I’m fine, Iwa-chan,” he says again. “It was just a fall.”

“That’s what you told me last time too,” Hajime says before he can stop himself.

“I know. But this time I’m serious.” Oikawa hesitates for a second, and gives a giggle that is completely and utterly forced. “Did I scare you or something, Iwa-chan?”

Hajime doesn’t rise to Oikawa’s teasing, just leans forward and lets his head fall into the sweaty crook of Oikawa’s shoulder, breathing out all the air that had been going stale in his lungs. He feels Oikawa shiver against him a little at that, but he doesn’t pull away – just presses in and wraps his arms around Oikawa’s shoulders to drag him closer.

“Yeah,” he says gruffly. “Don’t ever do that to me again.” He closes his eyes and squeezes Oikawa so tight that he might be just suffocating him. “Jesus Christ, I thought I was going to die.”

Oikawa doesn’t reply for a moment, but then he shifts and Hajime can feel him wrapping his arms around his back. “Sorry,” Oikawa says and the pair of them just sit awkwardly on the floor, hugging each other close even though Hajime can feel Oikawa’s sweat dripping down his own skin and he wants to move, to stand but –

Rather truthfully he can’t feel his legs.

(it’s way past twenty minutes before they can move again.)

.

They walk home hand in hand and in any other situation Oikawa would probably have been cracking jokes at it, playfully flirting with Hajime until he whacked him about the head. This time, however, Oikawa seems to pick up on Hajime’s mood – he doesn’t say a word the whole trip.

When they get back to the apartment Hajime pushes Oikawa down on the couch and fetches him an icepack, ignoring his protests and complaints because Hajime really doesn’t want to take a risk here.

“Just shut up and let me do this,” he sighs when Oikawa nearly elbows him in the side as he sits down next to him on the sofa and leans down so that he can press the pack to his knee. Oikawa huffs a little and folds his arm as he leans back stubbornly but stops his squirming. 

“What’s wrong with you tonight? You’re being kind of weird.” Oikawa doesn’t sound angry exactly, but Hajime doesn’t look up from where he’s staring fixatedly at his hands against Oikawa’s sweaty skin. “It was just a fall, it wasn’t –.”

“– Oikawa,” Hajime says gruffly and Oikawa goes quiet. Hajime sucks in a breath, rifles through his brain for words that might be able to explain why he’s acting like a teenage girl in a bad breakup movie and finds nothing. “Just let it go.”

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Oikawa’s lips thin and for a moment Hajime thinks it’s out of annoyance but then Oikawa is leaning forward and pulling the icepack from Hajime’s hands, throwing it carelessly to the ground so that he can snake their fingers together and –

“You’re shaking,” Oikawa says and Hajime realizes that yeah, he sort of is.

He yanks his fingers back and buries his face in his trembling hands as he takes in a deep breath – and then six or seven more when the first one doesn’t do anything to help.

He’s just… so mad, and terrified and really mixed up inside because the fear he’d felt when Oikawa had fallen on his fucking ass like that had been so soul destroyingly real that he hadn’t been able to function until he knew he was okay.

For a moment he’d thought they were about to repeat high school all over and Hajime doesn’t want to ever have to do that again. Any of it; the injury, the long nights where Oikawa was in agony, the fucking confession hanging over everything he did no matter how hard he tried to pretend it wasn’t.

This was all Oikawa’s fault because of course he’d so something as dumb as this while Hajime was in the middle of figuring them out.

“Iwa-chan? Iwa-chan, are you okay? Oh my god, are you crying?”

“No,” Hajime snaps, even though it wasn’t completely true because there was a definite sting in his eyes as Oikawa’s fingertips wrapped around his wrist to try and drag his hands away from his face. “I’m just – give me a moment.”

Oikawa doesn’t – just stubbornly wrenches Hajime’s wrists away so he can replace the hands on his face with his own, crowding in close so that Hajime can see the borderline panic on his face because Oikawa is just about as good at handling emotional situations as Hajime.

“Did I do something?” he presses, one thumb skating along Hajime’s cheekbone. “Tell me what I did so I can fix it.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Hajime says automatically but any other words catch in his throat on the way up because Oikawa’s still looking at him with large, brown eyes and biting at his lip and Hajime has the realization that he could probably tell Oikawa to do anything right now and he would.

It’s a lot of power to hold over any one person and Hajime promises himself right then and there that he’ll never, ever abuse it.

I give up, Hajime thinks and before he can stop himself he leans forward and kisses Oikawa.

It’s… awful.

Oikawa’s lips are slack and his mouth is too wide open and the second their lips touch he makes a sound like he’s choking and Hajime can literally feel him stop breathing. It’s not exactly the sexiest feeling in the world and Hajime feels like he’s about to puke from it all but keeps at it for as long as his nerves can hold out – which isn’t really all that long.

When he pulls back Oikawa’s fingers are stiff on his face and he looks like Hajime just slapped him.

Hajime’s heart is going a mile an hour in his chest and he gives a self-deprecating smile, hands resting on the couch cushions either side of Oikawa’s thighs. “I’m probably four years too late for that, huh?”

Oikawa’s eye go wider if it’s at all possible and his grip on Hajime’s face borders on actually painful; there’s probably going to be nail gouges in his cheeks in the morning but Hajime can’t bring himself to make Oikawa loosen his grip.

“Are you serious?” Oikawa asks, and his voice comes out desperately hushed and Hajime can’t do much more than smile weakly and shrug.

“I guess.”

“No, Iwa-chan, you can’t guess. Are you serious?” Oikawa’s voice is low and grumbly-rough in a way Hajime doesn’t think he’s ever heard before, and he’s nearly in Hajime’s lap at this point, leaning right in, so close that Hajime can feel his breath on his face.

He looks almost manic and Hajime doesn’t know if that’s good or bad but he settles his hands on Oikawa’s hips to steady him because he’s a little afraid that they’re both going to tumble to the ground at this rate.

“That depends,” he says as measuredly as he can, “on whether that’s alright with you?” He bites his lip and tries to look away from the way Oikawa’s eyes are boring in to him. “Is this … okay?”

Oikawa laughs –it’s so loud and sudden that Hajime almost flinches back but this time Oikawa is actually in his lap, tilting his face so he stares blankly up at Oikawa above him who’s giving him a positively watery smile.

“This is more than okay, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa breathes and then he kisses him.

Their second kiss isn’t as bad as the first but it’s significantly wetter – Oikawa’s damp lashes brush up against Hajime’s cheeks and he’s trying to sniffle quietly in a way that should be really gross but is just horrifically charming. One of Hajime’s hands leaves Oikawa’s hip to fist gently in his hair, pulling him closer and tilting his head for a better angle so their lips can slide together with less of an awkward glide.

He can feel the heat of Oikawa’s skin beneath the fingers of the other hand, his shirt having ridden up just a little so that Hajime’s thumb skates across sweat-warmed skin and his mouth is so much softer than Hajime would have ever thought and yeah, at this point he’s willing to admit he’s thought of this a lot. Probably more than he’d even realized.

They pull away when Hajime’s mind starts going cloudy and dizzy but once he gets a proper look at Oikawa’s flushed face, his eyes rimmed red and nose crinkled in an effort not to sniff, he can’t help but pull him back again.

“God, you’re still such an ugly crier,” he whispers between movements of their lips and Oikawa makes a small noise as his hands slide down Hajime’s neck to fist in the shoulders of his shirt.

“Can’t help it,” he mutters between one kiss and the next, “do you know how long I’ve waited for this? Years, Iwa-chan.”

Hajime’s heart clenches a little in his chest and this time he pulls back for real – Oikawa makes a small annoyed noise and tries to follow him up but Hajime spreads one hand against his stomach to hold him back. “So you – you… still?”

Oikawa looks at him like he’s stupid. “You’re not every bright, Iwa-chan.”

“Hey –.”

Oikawa steals a brief kiss to cut him off. “Yes, you absolute idiot. Still.”

There’s not anything that Hajime can think to say to that other than a soft and wonder filled: “Oh.”

Oikawa smiles at him wistfully and it’s all getting too dangerously emotional and Hajime really doesn’t think he can take much more of it because it’d be unbearably embarrassing if he started crying too.

He reaches up and pulls Oikawa back down to him.

There’s no complaints.

.

Things change again – but this time Hajime can say for certain that they’re good.

The nights Oikawa spends in his own bed dwindles to practically nothing. They spend a lot of time kissing now, too, which is a definite improvement.

Oikawa is annoyingly good at it and the one time Hajime brings it up he laughs in his face.

“I’ve been imagining this since I was thirteen,” he confides, hands resting on Hajime’s naked chest and lips grinning against the bruise he’d just sucked into his collarbone.

“You don’t get this good at something by imagining it,” Hajime says, and he tries not to sound too petulant but he knows he fails because Oikawa’s smile turns into a full-fledged smirk.

“Sure you can,” he purrs, and his hands slide down to gently caress Hajime’s waist before tightening suddenly and yanking him back towards him so fast that Hajime cries out. Oikawa leans down, nips along Hajime’s hipbone and peers up at him from beneath a curtain of lashes. “Do you want me to prove it to you?”

Hajime opens his mouth to say something but Oikawa’s mouth skims down and he winds up cutting himself off with a choked moan, one hand spasming up to fist in the back of Oikawa’s hair.

That’s another thing Hajime discovers – Oikawa really has a thing for having his hair pulled.

There are other changes too of course; Oikawa kisses him goodbye in the morning now, and when Hajime goes to pick him up from volleyball in the evenings he openly holds his hand in front of the whole team and nobody bats an eye.

It makes Hajime a little uneasy sometimes – the unfaltering acceptance of the people in their lives. It’s like everybody had known this was inevitable except him. He feels like he fucked up somehow, by leaving it for so long, but he never says anything because he knows Oikawa has exactly zero tolerance for Hajime trash talking himself.

(the one time he did they wound up having such intense sex that Hajime was nearly in tears by the end of it – Oikawa was always an affectionate boyfriend, but there was a difference between whispering compliments in Hajime’s ear when they cuddled and literally reciting him a manifesto of everything about him that Oikawa adored while he fucked him over the arm of the couch.)

Hajime still wonders a bit on how much time he wasted – how many more kisses and cuddles and orgasms they’d missed out on because Hajime was so thick – but it’s increasingly hard to think about what might have happened when he’s got the reality of what did happen right in front of him.

They have bad days still – Oikawa nearly throws out his knee two more times before Hajime manages to convince him to stop overworking it, and they argue a lot because they might be dating now but when you’ve known someone for all your life there’s just no way around that – but Hajime learns to welcome them as well as the good ones.

He’s happy. He’s so unbelievably, deliriously happy with Oikawa. Even when they fight. Even when they’re not speaking over something ridiculously stupid. Just… all the time. Always.

And it takes a while to get there, but eventually Hajime realizes that this happiness is now his life.

.

He’s nineteen years old and Oikawa has his head in his lap, humming under his breath a little as Hajime runs his fingers through his sleep fluffed hair. It’s a little too warm out to be cuddling like this, but neither of them mind.

Oikawa reaches up without looking and catches Hajime’s hand, bringing it down to brush his lips along the knuckles and smile against the spring-warm skin, looking up at him from beneath heavy lashes.

“I love you,” Oikawa says, and it’s quiet but confident and does a thousand-and-one things to Hajime’s heart even though this is nowhere near the first time he’s said it.

“Yeah,” Hajime says, and the words come out easy as breathing, “me too.”

And this time nobody’s shaking.